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This article is part of the Research Topic

The Implications of Weight Bias Internalisation

Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01022

Internalised weight stigma moderates the impact of a stigmatising prime on eating in the absence of hunger in higher- but not lower-weight individuals

  • 1University of Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 2University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

A considerable body of evidence links internalised weight stigma with higher levels of disordered eating behaviour and cognitions in both normative- and higher-weight populations. However, to date, the impact of internalised weight stigma on objectively measured food intake has not been explored. In the present study, a weight-diverse sample of 158 non-smoking adults (BMI  25kg/m2 n = 72, BMI < 25 kg/m2 n = 86) were recruited to a study on ‘The effects of hunger and satiety on information processing.’ Participants first completed a series of online questionnaires, then attended a lab visit in a fed state. Participants were randomised to read a sham news article on the negative consequences of either weight (stigma condition) or smoking (control condition) and answer some questions about the article. Then, under the pretense of a non-study-relevant break, participants were exposed to a pre-weighed selection of sweet and savoury snacks for 15 minutes. Mood and hunger levels were assessed prior to and after reading the vignette, and after the break. In contrast to the relationship with self-report eating behaviour, internalised weight stigma was not a significant independent predictor of total energy intake and did not moderate the relationship between exposure to the stigma prime and calories consumed. However, differences emerged on the basis of participants’ weight status. Higher-weight participants with high levels of internalised weight stigma consumed fewer snack calories following exposure to a weight-stigma prime compared with a neutral prime (B = -137, SE = 58, t = -2.35, p = .020, 95% CI -252, -22) whereas those with low levels of internalised weight stigma ate more in the weight stigma condition (B = 118, SE = 62, t = 1.91, p = .059, 95% CI -4, 241). In normative-weight participants, no differences in energy intake by levels of internalised weight stigma were observed. These findings suggest differences in the relationships between internalised weight stigma and self-reported disordered eating behaviour versus eating in the absence of hunger measured under laboratory conditions. Additionally, internalised weight stigma appears to have differential effects on response to stigma in higher-weight and normative-weight individuals.

Keywords: Weight Stigma, self-stigma, internalised weight stigma, eating behaviour, eating in the absence of hunger

Received: 25 Oct 2018; Accepted: 17 Apr 2019.

Edited by:

Joanne Hudson, Swansea University, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Michael Häfner, Berlin University of the Arts, Germany
Milica Vasiljevic, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2019 Meadows and Higgs. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Angela Meadows, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4PY, England, United Kingdom, drameadows@gmail.com